Senate Candidates Debate Communication, Retention

Gintautas Dumcius

The Undergraduate Student Senate held debates over the course of two days, a week before the student body went to the polls to pick their representatives for next academic year.

The debates highlighted the unprecedented number of candidates from the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS), and several issues that have long plagued the campus, such as communication within the community and the funding of public higher education.

Matthew Landry, one of the five CPCS candidates, said he had enjoyed being part of the senate this year, and hopes to increase the voice and understanding of what CPCS means to the university. There has long been a certain perception of the college, he said. “I’d like to change that.”

Another candidate from CPCS, Patricia Morales, who advertised her candidacy extensively through fliers around the school, said she was a “strong advocate of helping to put CPCS back on the map.” She is running, she added at the second debate, because she wanted to make sure “the struggles of CPCS students will be heard.” The only college with more candidates than CPCS is the College of Liberal Arts, recently split from the College of Science and Mathematics, with ten candidates.

Current senator of the College of Liberal Arts Erica Mena said it was an “exciting time” to be part of the senate. A lot of progress is being made in increasing communication between the administration and students. The goal of the senate is “being a louder voice for student concerns,” she said.

Exiting Student Senate President Susan Smith picked questions from a basket, asking senators how to get the students who work full-time more involved on the commuter campus and how to improve communication.

Vice President and College of Liberal Arts senator Fritz Hyppolite, up for re-election, said building a community that includes all aspects of a student’s life is key. “People who want to get involved know they have to balance it,” he said.

“We need dorms on this campus,” said CPCS senator Jesse Solomon. Dorms would go a “long way” towards attracting a greater percentage of students who are right out of high school, he said, who want the “full college experience.”

But student trustee candidate Adnan Usman, from the College of Management, pointed to the Harbor Point apartments, and said students are already able to have a full college experience at UMass Boston. “The ability to have housing-we have that whole part down,” he said.

To improve communication, Usman suggested a trustee calendar, similar to the monthly campus community calendar put out by the Division of Student Affairs. “I want to enact a trustee calendar that highlights events on a weekly basis,” he said.

Student retention, high on the list of Chancellor Jo Ann Gora’s priorities and labeled as crucial to UMass Boston, came up as well. College of Management candidate Tristan Lowe said people fail to realize that UMass Boston is “such a commodity.”

Lowe noted the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, various departments and professors as examples of “the stuff we need to highlight and use to keep students on campus.”

Lowe said the Students with disAbilities Center and the Ross Center for Disabilities Services were important resources as well. “We need to highlight these services,” he said.

One thing that helps retain students is jobs, said Usman. The new Campus Center, which is employing an estimated forty to fifty students, is not just offering work-study jobs, he said.

On the possibility of polling students on a regular basis, senators and candidates were asked what questions should be asked. “How can we create more of a sense of community,” said Landry, also suggesting questions about the admissions process and financial aid would be a good place to start.

The panel of candidates was small both days, but audience attendance was even smaller. When one audience member, a senior who had voted every year, asked how to deal with voter apathy, Usman pointed out, “None of the candidates get a campaign budget.”

College of Liberal Arts candidate Rachel Wittman suggested putting up posters and publicizing more in classrooms, as well as mandatory office hours for senators.